The Battle of Kadesh took place between the Egyptian Empire and the Hittite Empire in the 13th century BC, with the former led by Ramesses II and the latter led by Muwatalli II. Both sides engaged each other at the Orontes River, just upstream of Lake Homs and near the archaeological site of Kadesh, along what is today the Lebanon–Syria border. It is generally dated to May of 1274 BC, as accounted by Egyptian chronology, and is the earliest pitched battle in recorded history for which details of tactics and formations are known. It is believed to have been the largest chariot-involved battle ever fought, involving between 5,000 and 6,000 chariots in total. In the critical moment of the battle, Ramesses and his bodyguard were surrounded, and he broke out by personally leading several charges into the Hittite ranks.

Background After expelling the Hyksos’ 15th Dynasty around 1550 BC, the Egyptian New Kingdom rulers became more aggressive in reclaiming control of their state’s borders. Thutmose I, Thutmose III and his son and coregent Amenhotep II fought battles from Megiddo north to the Orontes River, including conflict with Kadesh. Many of the Egyptian campaign accounts between c. 1400 and 1300 BC reflect the general destabilization of the Djahy region (southern Canaan). The reigns of Thutmose IV and Amenhotep III were undistinguished, except that Egypt continued to lose territory to the Mitanni in northern Syria. During the late Eighteenth Dynasty, the Amarna letters tell the story of the decline of Egyptian influence in the region. The Egyptians showed flagging interest here until almost the end of the dynasty. Horemheb (d. 1292 BC), the last ruler of this dynasty, campaigned in this region, finally beginning to turn Egyptian interest back to the area.

Battle Rameses II in the Battle of Khadesh. Muwatalli had positioned his troops behind “Old Kadesh”, but Ramesses was misled by two spies whom the Egyptians had captured to think that the Hittite forces were still far off, at Aleppo, and ordered his forces to set up camp.[citation needed] The false intelligence caused Ramesses to march hastily towards Kadesh, where the Egyptians were caught off-guard.Ramesses II describes his arrival on the battlefield in the two principal inscriptions that he wrote concerning the battle, which were the so-called “Poem” and the “Bulletin”.